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Furthermore …

Farmers’ political clout going fallow

The spike in property taxes Hoosier farmers will pay this year is largely a result of the 2008 property tax restructuring – and indicates just how much clout farmers have lost in the General Assembly.

The last major property tax restructuring was in 1973 under Gov. Otis Bowen, and farmers were among the biggest proponents. The General Assembly, among other changes, put limits on property-tax increases and doubled the state sales tax to 4 percent, mostly to pay for property tax relief. For the first time, local governments could establish local income taxes to offset property taxes. In many ways, government leaders decided to move a good chunk of tax obligations from farmers to everyone else.

But in 2008, the biggest winners were owners of higher-priced suburban homes. Lawmakers capped the taxes they would pay at 1 percent of property values, while farmers faced a 2 percent tax cap.

This time, the property tax burden was moved from wealthier homeowners to everyone else – including farmers.

Of course, in the 35 years between 1973 and 2008, countless subdivisions were built on what was formerly farmland, giving owners of those homes more political clout.

So news from Allen County officials that the typical local farmer will see a 16 percent increase in property taxes this year is not an accident but a direct result of changing land uses – and political power.

Imitating life

Some critics didn’t care much for the opening scenes and dialogue from the season opener for “Mad Men.” Set in 1966, the scene showed workers at the advertising agency Young & Rubicam dropping water balloons on protesters picketing below. When some protesters went to the Y&R offices, one said, “And they call us savages.”

Turns out that the scene was based on a real-life event in 1966, when workers for that very same agency did indeed drop “water bombs” on protesters below, hitting, among others, a 9-year-old boy. And the line about “savages” was a direct quote from one of the protesters in The New York Times’ coverage of the event 46 years ago.

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